Today all I had on the training calendar was a very easy 60 minutes. Completely flat roads and nothing crazy – just a nice easy spin for the legs to help get the junk out after a weekend of hitting it hard. Sounds simple enough. Normally when I ride (yes, even when I do intervals) I listen to talk radio – think NPR, CBC, ClifCasts, Outside Magazine, This American Life – etc. I find the talk radio helps me really zone in on what I’m doing and keeps my brain from wandering and going a bit bonkers.
Well, today I decided to listen to my 2010 Warm-Up playlist. This is a series of songs I put together last season that I would listen to before races and and often while out riding my cyclo-cross bike at Averbode or Floreal Lichtaart. For these settings, music works perfectly for me. Today I learned it doesn’t work so well when all I have to concentrate on is going easy… yes, you can guess where this is going.
Before I knew it, my brain was leap-frogging from my to do list, to my racing plans, to schedules, to hotel reservations, to flights, to car rentals, to qualification standards for the 2012 World Cyclo-Cross Championships. Not good. Finally I actually had to say out loud, “Vicki – cut it out. Relax and just ride. Getting stressed out is not going to help anything. Just line-up, race your bike and do your best. This is all you can control.”
So did it help – yes sort of. But then, a few hours after my ride I found myself sitting on my yoga mat at my local yoga studio and just as the centring started – my brain went crazy again… I focused in on my breath and on the first few downward dogs of the warm-up. Soon enough I was in a happy place where my brain was free of thought and worry.
Now, as I sit here thinking back on all of this, I honestly feel a bit silly that I let my brain get the better of me sometimes. I can do a really good job of working myself up into an unnecessary ball of stress – not good for anyone.
So, just like I gave up aspartame three weeks ago (I miss my Diet Coke) – I am now pledging to make a concerted effort to having an empty brain as much as possible. So if I seem a bit spaced-out or you catch me with an empty expression on my face – this is a good thing. This means I’m in a happy place and I’m just rolling with it.
I like to think I’m not the only person who battles their brain…. So now is your time to ‘fess up and tell others how you deal with it… Come on don’t be shy – we’re all friends here.
Sounds like Zen Meditation to me.
Good point Matt – I suppose it is a lot like Zen Meditation. I’ve bought a couple books on meditation but have really struggled with getting my brain to quiet down. Perhaps I should add this to my list of goals for the season – I’ve read that a 15 minute daily meditation can do a lot of good.
Do you have any experience with Zen Meditation?
Unfortunately, no. I have a lot of friends who practice Zen, and your struggle to keep an empty brain sounded very similar.
Whenever I start thinking too much on a ride, that’s a sign to me that I should start concentrating on my cycling, breathing, how I’m pedaling, etc.In a way it’s similar to Zen, which is about focussing on the breathing, and the mechanics of your body.